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Playing With / Adults Are Useless

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Basic Trope: Adults are no help to the underage protagonists

  • Straight:
    • In the small town of Adamsville, parents have no idea of the life-threatening situations their kids go through. For example, teenagers Alice, Bob, and Charlie fight off the supernatural on a daily basis, but no one notices provided they get to school on time and are home for supper.
    • Alice and Bob bully up Charlie and other students on a daily basis. Charlie tells adults what's going on, but they refuse to do anything about it.
  • Exaggerated:
    • When Adamsville is attacked by monsters the adults and military are helpless to fight them, while all the kids are superheroes who secretly fly off to save the day. Makes you wonder why the teachers don't notice their classrooms are vacant all of sudden.
    • Every single adult is in a vegetative state and thus unable to do anything. Or are incapacitated in other ways.
  • Downplayed:
    • Most adults don't seem to be clueless or incompetent and some of them help the young protagonists, although more often than not it falls to the kids to save the day.
    • One of two parents (usually the father) is incompetent.
    • The monsters can only be harmed by children. Adults are aware of it and try to help but the best they can do is to give them mundane supplies that give them no edge against the monsters.
  • Justified:
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
    • Most parents have no idea what their kids are doing, but Kesha, a young adult, notices the children and gives the adults a shot at Character Development
    • The adults secretly know what the kids are doing. They could be intentionally be "Worthless" to teach their kids to fight their own battles, or only step in when it's obvious the kids are in over their heads.
    • Though it turns out she's the only one who cares for the kids, becoming the only useful adult.
    • The adults secretly know what the kids are doing... but don't interfere because it's good training for when they become adults and get to join in the even more awesome superheroes the adults are keeping secret.
    • The adults secretly knew what their kids were doing, and didn't get involved because they're even more secretly the villains.
    • The adults play uninteresting yet ultimately vital role for the kids survival, like keeping them well nourished and sheltered, also providing them with morale support during their Darkest Hour.
  • Double Subverted:
  • Parodied:
    • When danger comes the adults cry for their kids to save them.
    • The second someone turns 18, they receive an Idiot Ball for their birthday.
    • It's expected that people sign up for retirement once they turn 18.
  • Zig Zagged:
    • The kids are losing and the adults are helpless because they see their children suffering terrible deaths they cannot explain. The concerned adults discover that their children are fighting a war against supernatural creatures the adults cannot see. Character development for adults and children leads to a successful coalition against the invisible supernatural adversaries. With the change in the tide of the war the adults become the new targets, but then even older adults, formerly considered useless by the parents, provide vital skills and discipline in coordinating the joint effort of the children and younger adults.
    • Alice and Bob beat up Charlie regularly. Dan tells a couple adults and they don't help. Dan and Charlie go tell another adult who steps in.
    • Only some adults are useless - some get in the way of the kids and do nothing but this, but others step in when they're informed of the problem.
    • In a Generational Saga, only adults who were once kid heroes are portrayed as competent.
  • Averted:
    • The adults have the proportionate amount of skill and authority the average adult carries in the presence of children.
    • The problem the children deal with is a minor problem compared with the difficulty faced by the adults who would, if they were not engaged against a greater threat, deal with the minor problem themselves.
    • The adults actually do step in because they notice something was wrong. Especially authority figures such as teachers and police.
  • Enforced:
    • The producers are working with a Competence Zone limited to the average age of the target audience, and anyone not aged 7-15 is useless to the plot.
    • The producers want to teach kids that adults aren't always helpful or reliable and they need to be prepared to solve their own problems.
  • Lampshaded: "We are the kids here! It's our responsibility, our power! They will probably think we are daydreaming or playing!"
  • Invoked: The kids handle the problem themselves because they know it would waste time attempting to convince any adult of the problem.
  • Exploited: Bullies and villains are able to psychologically torture the Kid Hero with the knowledge that his parents and teachers cannot or will not help him.
  • Defied: "Ms. Apple, if your child is in trouble one more time, I'm calling social services."
  • Discussed:
    • "Do your parents even care that we are missing?" "Sadly, Kesha, no."
    • "Is every adult a moron?!"
  • Conversed: "I don't understand these shows. Adults have the experience and dedication but when they're needed, they're never around! Why is that?"
  • Implied: Although the children are seen going past various places that have adults in them, they never think to ask them for help, instead focusing on what they can do. The viewer will note that they could ask them for help, despite them seemingly placing more confidence in their own abilities.
  • Deconstructed:
    • Kesha becomes tired of the other adults' neglect, so she calls social services.
    • The adults are useless but when they see their kids nearly die protecting them, they feel remorse. Bonus points if this happens only after their children are dead.
    • The adults are useless and just give worthless advice, or refuse to believe what the kids are saying, and refuse to step in, and something bad happens that they could have prevented. (Kids are hurt with varying levels of severity, for example.)
    • Adults encourage the bullying whether directly or with their own inaction.
    • Turns out the adults are the villains, meaning they're far from worthless.
    • The adults never listen to the kids stories about what's going on, making the children feel depressed and leading them to give up...
    • Just because the parents are incompetent doesn't mean the children are competent. If the parents are the main influence in a child's life, they would also be the main influence on their personality as well, meaning a world full of useless adults would result in future generations being just as useless.
  • Reconstructed:
    • The foster parents are even worse than their real parents.
    • After the adults become responsible and involved in their children's lives, the kids worry that this will mean the end of their adventures. As a result an Idiot Ball is handed to the adults.
    • The adults solve the surface problem, only to lead to Nice Job Breaking It, Hero. Turns out that the Big Bad had a gambit in play just in case the adults tried to butt in.
    • single adult believes them, giving the kids new hope.
  • Played For Laughs: The adults are just completely, comically, helplessly stupid, to the point where their children are taking care of them.
  • Played For Drama: The adults are drug addicts or are otherwise incompetent to raise children. Teachers and other reasonable authority figures are either astonished at the depths of the parents' neglect or they are just as bad. Or, they don't believe it or are apathetic.

Hey, Dad, can you help me get back to Adults Are Useless? Well...? I guess I'll just do it myself.